Every business should be well aware of the contentious issues surrounding their industry – after all, they could rear their ugly heads at any time. When your industry or organization is under fire and you’re receiving angry tweets by the boatload, it could be too late to take control of the situation. That’s why crisis planning is essential.
While there are many tactics involved in an effective crisis management strategy, SEO is often overlooked since it involves foresight and planning – it’s not a reactionary tactic. However, by taking an honest look at your organization and industry, you can create transparent and informative content that will perform well on the SERPs and save you from a few looming headaches.
Here are our tips for incorporating SEO into your crisis planning:
Get ahead of the story
When the masses become outraged by an issue related to your organization or industry, they’re going to turn to Google to find out more. Of course, the top-ranking results will get the most clicks. This is why it’s crucial to anticipate issues and address them in high-ranking, relevant blog posts and website content before they happen. Identify specific questions and concerns that people will inevitably search (think who, what, where, when, why and how), and then plan your content strategy around those topics. That way, you can collect those clicks, take control of the story and slow the spread of misinformation.
“Publishing your standard FAQs related to predictable incidents is a great way to get ahead of the game, so Google indexes your crisis response long before there is one,” says Doug Lacombe, Communicatto’s president and founder. “You can also maintain a small library of ‘ghost posts’ that address various potential scenarios. This allows you to react swiftly with minimal approval cycles, thus reinforcing existing SEO standings with fresh content about the active situation.”
Do your keyword research
If you want to make an impact on the public’s opinion, your content better be at the top of the SERPs for the right keywords. When potential issues arise, what will your target audience search for on Google? Chances are, it won’t be industry jargon. If you know the potential crises your organization could face, you can start identifying key terms that will likely be used in correlation.
In order to come up with these keywords, you need to do your research. Tools like SEMRush’s Keyword Magic tool do the work for you by generating powerful, relevant keywords so you can stop brainstorming and start writing. Other tools like Answer the Public or even Google Adwords Keyword Planner can help formulate the question and answer sets people are actually searching for.
Blog posts that address the public’s biggest questions often evolve into powerful evergreen content. Year after year, these posts rack up traffic because evergreen content often ranks higher on the SERPs than the average blog post. By updating your evergreen posts periodically so they’re always factual and relevant, your blog will essentially do much of the first tier of crisis management for you.
When disaster strikes, your social media channels will likely bear the brunt of the outcry. Developing evergreen content and documenting links to it in your crisis plan will take the pressure off your social media manager during crisis response.
Don’t forget about social media
Social media plays an important role in SEO, especially when it comes to hot-button issues. On Google, relevant tweets often appear at the top of the SERPs. This can be troublesome if the tweets that appear on Google’s Twitter carousel are defamatory. However, the carousel also presents an opportunity for your brand to take greater control of the content on page one of search.
In order for your brand to appear on the Twitter carousel during a crisis, you’re going to have to put in some work beforehand. Tweet often, build a following and increase your engagement – all things you’re probably working towards anyway. Once you achieve carousel status, your rumour-busting tweets should appear right at the top of the SERPs, negating the efforts of ill-informed naysayers.
Put some budget behind your response
You may want to consider launching a paid search campaign that directs search traffic to the place where people can find accurate, up to date information about the crisis. This could be especially useful if the crisis will not be resolved quickly and requires ongoing issues management.
Use your keyword research to help define the search queries you want to buy. This could include things like the type of issue you are dealing with, the name of your organization and the geographic location where the crisis is occurring. Don’t forget to stay on top of the campaign and adapt it as the crisis evolves and the online conversation changes.
Once the crisis has been resolved, there’s still SEO work to do. Start outranking negative stories by pushing them down with positive content about your brand. Publish compelling blog posts regularly, continue building a strong social media presence and, most importantly, have a little patience – it will take time for your efforts to pay off.
Don’t forget to include your organization’s spokespeople and senior leaders in your clean up efforts. When issues arise, people will inevitably Google their names – and negative content that appears on those search results could reflect poorly on your brand.
Finally, after any brand crisis, building SEO into your crisis planning exercises is the best way to avoid similar situations in the future. By coming up with and refining your game plan beforehand, you can empower your brand – from here on out, your brand’s reputation can rest safely in the hands of your SEO gurus.